The article below was published, as my interview indicates, just before my family and I sold most of our belongings, stored the rest in my daughter’s grandmother’s basement, sold our new station wagon, bought an old Chevy pickup with a shell camper on it and hit the road. One of the authors, Richard Cowan, was both an anthropology friend and a political friend of mine. We were both part of a circle of archaeology students that convened frequently in the Gifford Room at Kroeber Hall (the student lounge) and passionately discussed every political event that occurred, often then attending rallies and demos as a block. Although I was not an archaeology student, I had become part of this circle through my work at the Lowie Museum. Jamie Huberman was also part of this circle, so I knew her at the time this article was written.
Richard, whom we called Cowan, was blasted by us pretty much to hell and back for allowing the title “Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty” to be attached to the article. At least three of these women, perhaps all four, only consented to be interviewed for it because of our friendship with Cowan and because we trusted him to be honest and fair and because we felt we had something to say to McCall’s readers. The title is so very objectionable and enrages me to this day because the so-called “battle cry” was never, ever a battle cry and was always and ever a sarcastic remark made in exasperation by an FSMer in the presence of reporters who then brazenly took it out of context and presented it as a serious remark that came to be the battle cry of unthinking writers when reporting on our generation in general. I received a Hallmark birthday card only two years ago using the remark, again, as if it had really been anyone’s motto, slogan, battle cry or any such thing. (It’s on my Facebook page, if you want to see it.)
The whole story is told in Berkeley in the Sixties. The remark was in response to a question we all considered incredibly silly and demeaning, ie., are the Communists behind this. Someone, Jack Weinberg maybe, said flippantly, “Of course not, you know we don’t trust anyone over 30.” I actually did not know where the catch phrase came from until I heard the story in the film, but we all knew at the time that no one but a fool would have said such a thing straight-faced and that, taken seriously, it was manifestly untrue. We never saw any of the movements in Berkeley to have been generational and the closest we ever came to ageism was dissing hippies when they first appeared and affectionately referring to our younger activists as “teeny boppers.” Everyone I knew, certainly, deeply respected certain faculty members– our advisors, faculty members who supported us and, indeed, the faculty senate which voted to publically support the FSM. I deeply respected and loved my bosses at the museum, as well as the public figures whose works had helped lead me into my political action at Berkeley.
When, during one of the first noon rallies after the Sproul Hall sit-in, telegrams from supporters from around the world were being read, I could not contain myself with joy when the congratulatory telegram from Bertrand Russell was read. My mother had been called into a conference with my high school principal about my attitude when I had been caught reading Russell’s “Marriage and Morals” behind my (ha ha) Home Economics textbook in study hall. The book was one of many that had been sent to me surreptitiously by my friend from another Florida high school who later was busted in Tallahassee for participating in lunch counter sit-ins. To get 1/800th of a pat on the head from Bertrand Russell was for me an undreamed of validation that I was on the right track. He was probably in his 80s at the time.
To say that any of us did not trust anyone over thirty and to insinuate that we were so stupid and naive that we did not know that we would someday be over thirty is just the very height of insulting mendacity. All the nyah, nyah, you’re gonna be over thirty, too, stuff, as exemplified in this article is pure bullshit and the idea that it was a “taunt”, shame on Cowan, he knew better. If that line was written by John Poppy, Cowan should have stood his ground and changed it.
Cowan defended himself by saying he had no idea or control over the title and would never have participated in the article had he known McCall’s was going to do such a thing. Now that I have had, myself, a career in journalism, albeit a short one, I know that his claim is quite possibly true. Reporters do not write headlines, editors do, and the only control I ever obtained over any of mine was to suggest the headline when I submitted the article and come up with a better one than my editor could and to cultivate a relationship with my editors that made them want to keep me happy. However, I do suspect and we all suspected then that, Cowan’s protestations notwithstanding, he probably suspected some such thing might happen and might well have been guilty of disregarding his suspicion, choosing whatever he got paid and/or the glory involved in publication over the feelings of his friends in this instance.
In any case, aside from the title, I have no complaints about the content, other than to note that we all got a good laugh out of Jamie’s “vivacious salon”. While it was certainly vivacious and it was certainly like the “salons” in period novels, I find it hard to believe that sooner or later most FSM graduates passed through it. A bit of hyperbole, that. And, reading the article now I am struck by the fact that all four of us either already lived in the country or were on our way to the country or were open to the possibility of living in the country. I never noticed that at the time. By the time this article came out, friends of Cowan’s and mine had already dropped out and moved to Marin and Humboldt Counties and we both had already visited them there. My family eventually ended up in Humboldt County in part because of those friends.
I maintained my connections to the archaeologists for some time after I left Berkeley and was in contact with Jamie for some years after my move. In 1994, at the 30th year reunion of the Free Speech Movement, I was able to visit with her and can report that she never did marry or have children or move to the country, but stayed in Berkeley and hung on to her career in archaeology. As to whatever happened to the other two women, I have no information.
There is one remark of Jamie’s that I would elaborate on here. When she says “it is too bad that women have to sleep with men they don’t dig sexually in order to be friends with them”, she touches on a theme that colored the lives of all my women friends in Berkeley. I, too, think it was sad and, if it is still true, is still sad and beyond sad into disgraceful, but things in general were so chaotic culturally during that period, I was so distracted by everything else, that I never could quite put my finger on the problem. The pressure from the men around me to provide them with sex was enormous, possibly more so because, being a divorcee, I was surely not a virgin. How very many times did some male person ask me the following question: “What difference does it make to you? You slept with (fill in the blank), why won’t you sleep with me?” Actually, the remark was even cruder than that, but I feel no need these days to be that crude.
That argument never got anywhere with me and anyone making it to me could be and was swiftly assured that he would never get anywhere with me sexually, ever, for any reason. In point of fact, I had numerous male friends that, far from pressuring me for sex, had to be nimble to avoid my seducing them, but it is absolutely true then and for years later that I never had a relationship with a male friend in which we did not have to establish early on whether this relationship would or could include sex or not and free floating pressure was always there, sometimes from one of my male friends on behalf of others of HIS male friends. The question was always there implicitly, at least at the beginning.
I was dimly aware of all of that, but I could not come up with a really dynamite response to it until one day I was provided with one and, to my vast amazement, from a direction I could never have imagined. One day, probably early in the women’s movement, I was handed a flyer on campus. That alone is interesting because so many flyers were given out that I usually refused to accept them. I figured if anything important is happening, someone will tell me. This one, however, for some reason, I accepted.
When I got it home and read it, it turned out to be from a group of women, a sort of a position statement. It contained the following sentence: “We stopped being private property sexually only to become community property sexually.” I was utterly floored. That’s it, I thought, that’s exactly it. I recalled those instances where male friends of mine had asked me if I would please sleep with some male friend of theirs who couldn’t “get” a woman on his own. I recalled instances wherein male friends of mine had belittled my ongoing fairly steady relationship with my boyfriend and told me not to “limit” myself sexually. What are you? a prude? they would ask. My Baptist past had inevitably come up in these conversations, the implication being that I needed to prove to him, them, myself, somebody, that I was truly liberated and allowing my male friends to direct my sex life was the proof. Community property, that was just exactly how these male friends thought of me.
When one of my old Tallahassee male friends then living in Berkeley, one who may be excluded from the last paragraph, came over to see me later that day, I handed him the flyer and said, “Roger, look at this!! This is fantastic. Its what I’ve been thinking all along but never could put into words.” Roger read it, grinned from ear to ear and said, “Not only is this what you’ve been thinking all along, but you know the woman who wrote it.” I said, “I do?” And he said, “Of course, look at the name at the bottom, its Erin.” I was floored again. “Erin from Tallahassee? She’s here? She wrote this?” And, according to Roger, it was true.
I had never been friends with this woman, had only met her once or twice, and was pretty sure she had nothing but contempt for me as an unproven cracker, but she had been very much at the center of the group of people who had radicalized me in Tallahassee. Somehow, the idea that another of my great breakthroughs should have been provided to me from that group of people just seemed to make it that much more –something–fated, valid, important. I guess in a funny kind of way, in spite of the fact that I knew this woman did not like me, I was proud of her and proud that I knew the woman who had said such a wonderful thing and said it to so many other women! I suppose its possible that it was a quote from some other feminist, and I did not read the feminists until much later, but I have never come across it anywhere else.
And, I guess I would say now, post-hippie, it was so very cosmic. What were the chances? Not so strange that another person from my radical circle in Tally should show up in Berkeley, we had all urged each other to go west, but that I should have taken the flyer when I didn’t normally, that I was at the right time and place out of thousands of Berkeley students to have it handed to me and that Roger showed up right then to explain it to me. I’m gonna stick with cosmic. Unfortunately, I do not have the flyer to post here and that one idea was so perfect to me that I have forgotten everything else the flyer said.
In the interest of full disclosure, my picture did not appear in McCall’s. I was slightly miffed that the authors got the other three and then stopped before they got to me. The picture shown here is from the same time period, however. For those who have read my list of former names elsewhere on this blog and noted I didn’t mention Barbara Samuels Ibo, that’s because this is the only place that name appears. It is the not-real last name of my daughter’s father, which he, under the influence of the “black power” idea, chose randomly from a tribal map of Africa I provided him with for that purpose. He chose it purely on the basis of the sound of it. Neither of us had any idea that the Ibo tribe would later become known worldwide as genocide-committers. I never used the name and can’t remember how Cowan talked me into letting it be used here. There are places where my daughter’s father is still called by that name, though he uses his given last name in any legal situation.
“Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty”
THIS WAS ONCE THEIR BATTLE CRY. NOW FOUR EX-CAMPUS RADICALS, APPROACHING THIRTY THEMSELVES, TELL HOW THEIR OUTLOOK HAS CHANGED, AND WHAT THEIR NEW GOALS ARE
By John Poppy and Richard Cowan
Seven years ago this month, three thousand University of California students surrounded a police car and held it captive for thirty-two hours in front of the Berkeley administration building. That shock to academia signaled the birth of what America soon came to know as the Free Speech Movement— and the FSM, in turn, gave the signal for a new style in student revolt. The years of polite protest were over.
But campus confrontation is not the FSM’s only legacy. From the start, many members hoped they could change the system as they changed their own lives. They talked about rehumanizing the educational machine, about personal liberty, about restoring some sense of community in this feuding nation.
Meanwhile, the elders of the land— alarmed by the political rhetoric booming out of Berkeley, troubled to see university ground used as a staging area for social action, certainly stung by the FSM’s taunt, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”—radiated a feeling that the whole thing was either a Communist plot or a glorified panty raid that would soon blow over. Childish high spirits were to blame: the kids would grow up and settle down.
Well, some FSM people have passed thirty now, and others are approaching it. Here is a report on four of them.
Barbara Samuels Ibo says she has replaced her old faith in politics with something more immediate—a change in total life-style that centers on a family. “During the FSM. I saw myself as an innovator, as a sacrifice. Mario Savio spoke about ‘throwing your body on the wheels,’ and in I went. That was valid then. Now, I think most radical political activity is futile. It won’t change the middle-American consciousness, and the changes I want most aren’t caused by political change.”
Wait. Before you say, Aha, she grew up and joined her elders, examine the life Barbara is talking about:
She is sitting at dinner in a Berkeley house amid scattered boxes and heaps of clothing. John Ibo. the man she lives with, their daughter (name withheld), Little John (his son from a previous marriage), and several other children are eating, too, ignoring the confusion—which, it turns out, is preparation for moving day. The Ibos are looking for rural land, either in Hawaii or northern California.
Barbara’s parents, after raising her as a strict Baptist in rural Florida, are shocked by the way she chooses to live, particularly since John is black, but have never withdrawn their love. “When I graduated from high school, I was supposed to marry a farmer, have kids and teach Baptist Sunday school,” she says. Instead, she enrolled at Norman College in Georgia, later transferred to Florida State, married a young business type and arrived in Berkeley in 1964. She left her husband after her arrest, outraged by his contempt for the FSM, and they were soon divorced.
Barbara had stumbled onto something she wanted. So she “threw her body on the wheels,” until the People’s Park struggle of 1969 turned her away from political activity. “I saw the gas and helicopters and shooting, and realized there was no hope for political dialogue against this kind of repression. I want to start from scratch, work things out on a person-to-person basis. Getting to work on the new culture is the only hope. Maybe we can replace the old when it falls.”
She is a mother in her late twenties, and the transition to maturity has stirred a new strength in her relationships with people. “As I get older, I recognize the reality of death. Mortality means we’d better hurry up and get experience and love. We don’t have time to fool around.”
Her emotional life revolves around John and the baby in ways that “limit but at the same time enrich my life. We’ve lived together for five years, but we’ve never been married. We’d rather be together by agreement than by permission.” She insists on John’s sharing the child-raising, and he enjoys doing it. Still, a family generates obligations, cutting down the independence Barbara sometimes wants, so she and John allow each other occasional separations, which work “only because we are confident of each other.”
Where does she hope to find her ideal community? In some sort of rural association of people who think as she does, a place where seekers for social change try to lead honest lives based on the precept, “Anything I do is all right as long as it hurts no one else.”
Sue Trupin lives in a hip, sylvan settlement called Canyon, pocketed in the hills behind Oakland.
As far as Sue is concerned, her way of living has replaced politics: “Creating my own destiny is a political act. That means withdrawing completely from the American middle class. . .There’s an American Tribe growing up, and that is what I feel part of.”
Sue is now twenty-seven, and she married Bob Trupin before the FSM. He was a promising physicist then, but now teaches humanities two days a week at the San Francisco Art Institute. “I was wild in 1964,” she remembers with a laugh. “I glorified craziness. Today, I’d rather disappear than be busted.”
Sue and Bob Trupin have four children—Theresa, fifteen, a foster child who has lived with them for two years; Naomi, twelve, Bob’s child from a previous marriage; Reevan, three, their son; and Gabriel, almost two, their adopted black son.
“I like very much the lessons that gardens and animals teach kids,” Sue says. “The woods, the nursery school, the exchanges between people, all help the kids to understand life processes, to learn to do things themselves. Americans take their technology for granted, have no sense of where things come from. Raising my kids in a beautiful environment to have complete experiences—that’s part of my vision.”
Raising children has also matured her. “I like getting older. I respect my life more. It’s good to leave all that girlish cuteness behind. Having the kids did it.” For Sue, feeling responsible for children is the most difficult part of having them. “But since Bob can spend a lot of time hanging out with his family, he is a much less mysterious figure than most American fathers. He and the older girls give me time to disappear now and then. It takes the pressure off,” she says gratefully, “and makes me feel warm for my family.”
All these young women talked of how their personal needs sometimes conflict with the FSM’s old thrust for community. As part of settling down, they are all trying to accommodate, rather than deny, the strongest of those needs—the urge for some independence from family and mate. Sue handles it partly by bringing in “lovers and friends who can help expand my experience. Lovers allow you to enrich your life,” she says evenly, “in some other way from your husband. Our only rule is total honesty.” It’s a risky approach, often tried among FSM veterans but seldom successful. The Trupins are admired around Berkeley as one of the few couples who have, so far, managed to keep it together.
Jamie Huberman is childless and unmarried, but almost every FSM graduate has passed through her vivacious salon in Berkeley. Jamie likes men in her life, but not full time. “I need to do my own thing and a full-time relationship doesn’t allow that privilege. It’s too bad women have to sleep with men they don’t dig sexually in order to be their friends.”
She came to Berkeley from New Jersey, “super-idealistic and very political, and found a tremendous number of people like me. I’ve got lots of friends, both men and women, whom I really love. It’s our own special type of family arrangement.”
Jamie is twenty-eight now, and has pulled back from street politics. “I recognize new problems that you never consider when you’re younger. I’ve seen how fragile people’s existences are. Life is more complicated than I’d thought. . . . One-to-one relationships are the only things people can really do.” She figures she will someday live in a rural spot with a man, “not just for the sake of completeness but because no female likes to live alone in the country. I’m not as strong as the forces in the United States that oppose free single women. Ten years from now I’ll be thirty-eight, and then the benefits of a relationship will probably outweigh the negative aspects of continually fighting.”
A friend of the other three women has chosen to dissolve a relationship. Marilyn Milligan, older than the rest at thirty-six, and more established academically with a Ph.D in biology, separated from her husband last year and took her two children to a remote little house ninety miles up the coast from San Francisco.
Alone with them, Marilyn finds that “social desires are often quite different from mother’s desires. Socially, I want to live with no worry of the next minute, but it’s hard to adjust the rhythms of my life to the children’s needs.” So she sacrifices the excitements of the city, figuring they would drain so much of her energy that “I couldn’t relate correctly to my children, much less to my own head changes.”
There she sat, eating fruit on a sunny platform behind a roomy cabin that she heats with a wood stove, withdrawn from the clutter of toys, drawings, and children. She’d been on a post-doctoral fellowship in Berkeley in 1964 and is now what she calls “a real dropout. Middle America is just not up front. No matter how weirded out the counterculture has ever been, it’s still never gotten as desperate as Middle America.
“Eventually,” she goes on, “I hope to join some form of positive communal situation, an extended family with a core of loving people. . . . I feel it takes more than one person to raise children, but the whole notion of couples has a future only in the context of total freedom for both partners.”
These FSM women have withdrawn from the politics of confrontation, yet they live and breathe social change. They have bailed out of regular jobs, yet look avidly for fulfilling lifetime work. They enjoy sex, yet tiptoe warily between the snares that surround loving a man. Those with children build their vision of a new life around an enriching family, yet they go to any lengths to keep some independence.
They still want the world to change, but they have altered the scope of the world they work at changing. Self-critical, wary of rigidity, they don’t fall into the trap of assuming they have all the answers.
“Look,” says Barbara Ibo, “I have to call myself a searcher. I’d sound smug and probably a little crazy if I said I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m headed. So if I’m vague and contradict myself, that’s me. I’m trying to realize my potentialities as I work on my life. All I can say is that I’m going to keep building.”
MCCALL’S. OCTOBER 1971 pp 38, 40.